The City Council meeting on March 7, 2022, once again ran almost 5 hours. Members addressed City business and then, about an hour into the meeting, the three applications for Planned Developments in the new North Bellaire Special Development District NBSDD) were again discussed.
Some Council members seemed to play a game of semantics when the PDs came up. Who can sound the most erudite, intelligent, and informed? Who’s the smartest one in the room?
They debated 60% versus 66 or 75% coverage for the first two of the three PDs on a site that allows total coverage of 80%; should the three PDs be approved one at a time or all at once, even though the individual ordinances do not contain the same language; how to balance fairness to the developer versus the City versus the residents. My take is that area residents always seemed to come last in this calculation. See what you think, here’s a link to the meeting.
Sadly, there seemed to be no actual agreement on any of these subjects, which helps to explain the long 4 and 5 hour Council meetings.
Finally the discussion turned to the City Attorney’s red-line additions to the initial ordinance, Items a through jj, for PD-1. Councilmember Gordon began by finding fault with Item a, which requires the developer to provide to the City any correspondence from TCEQ within 30 days of receipt regarding adherence to the Special Warranty Deed that accompanied the property. Fortunately that item will remain in the ordinance for PD-1.
Then a long discussion about Item v, screening the parking garage openings facing the residences to the north with an opaque covering and shielding residents from bright lighting. Councilmember Lewis promoted this, even providing photos of bright lights shining into backyards and homes on Mayfair street.
Councilmember Gordon seemed defensive about any perceived criticism of the NBSDD ordinance, which he oversaw and approved while chair of P&Z. He said he didn’t want to seem “too prescriptive” of rules on bright lights flooding the adjacent neighborhood with light, as prescribed in PD-1 Item x. He questioned the meaning of ‘minimum’ and suggested leaving it up to the developer, or to the representative from Development Services.
But the P&Z members had emphasized that even though they allowed a wide latitude for language in the NBSDD, members of City Council had the power to limit everything permitted on the Fournace/South Rice/Loop 610 site.
The Mayor finally put the issue to a vote, and it was removed on a 4 to 3 vote, with members Lewis, Wesely, and Hotze in the minority. Then he suggested some broad language for indefinite ‘prescriptions’ for lighting that would affect the entire PD! So much for addressing neighborhood light pollution.
The fact is, unless it’s in a City Ordinance no staff member now or in the future has the power to insist on a change to excessively high or bright lighting.
More lengthy discussion from Councilmember Gordon about not allowing the developer to charge for public parking, Item w, to avoid center visitor to parking on the surrounding residential streets. The Mayor made a motion to remove Item w and the motion passed on a 4 to 3 vote with Council members Lewis, Wesely, and Hotze in the minority.
More later. and there will be another Council meeting on these applications on March 21, 2022.
Find more information on the NDSDD here: North Bellaire Special Development District – The Great Wide Open!
And the earlier City Council hearing and subsequent meetings here: City Council Public Hearing – PDs For 4800 Fournace & 5901 So. Rice Avenue